I am so happy I decided to do this contest. What amazing stories of love, hope, friendship and determination I received. It really was such a fun way to get to know more of you and see just a small glimpse into your lives. It was so, so, so hard for me to choose one winner........so I decided to choose a first and second place instead. Thanks again to EVERYONE who shared stories, it was my pleasure to read through them, really, truly it was........So without further delay......
The first place winners will receive a free session fee, and 50% off of all products and prints. Congratulations to Jen Ross and her family!!! She sent me this inspirational story about her and her husbands journey in life together. I can't wait to meet your family and capture the amazing love you all share! P.S. Happy engagement anniversary! (2nd place winner below)
Brad and Jen’s Story
In November 2003, after just ending a serious relationship, one of my friends at work convinced me to go out with her brother-in-law, Brad, who was here arranging to attend BYU, after spending the previous two years in California on a mission. We had a good time, and I was impressed with him, but we both felt a little awkward, and didn’t know if it would go anywhere. The day after our date, he went back to Washington for the holidays with his family. He called me a week later, and we began a long distance friendship. Over the next few weeks, through telephone calls and e-mails, we got to know each other and were able to share deep feelings and experiences, without the complications of a physical relationship. When he returned to Utah to begin school, we looked forward to dating, but I was a little nervous, because I wasn’t sure I remembered what he looked like. He will tell you that he can’t believe I didn’t remember, because his crooked smile, amazing charm, and athletically good looks are unforgettable. I knew I loved his good heart, sage advice, and sense of humor, and I hoped that the physical attraction would be equally as strong. But that didn’t prove to be a problem, and from the moment he returned, we were inseparable.
After dating for the next 2 months, he proposed to me on Valentine’s Day 2004, and I eagerly accepted. Meanwhile, in school, Brad began to notice he felt tired and sluggish and had a sore throat. He went to a doctor who thought he might have mononucleosis. However, when referred to a specialist, he was diagnosed with Leukemia. We were told that he would need to enter the hospital three days later, and be subjected to weeks of chemotherapy treatments, radiation, and eventually a bone marrow transplant. He had to drop his classes at BYU, and his parents and I became his non-stop bedside companions for the next 6 weeks. He had a central line put into his chest for his medications, lost his energy and his hair, and endured fevers, chills, nausea and many other horrible side effects. He had to wear a mask to protect him from our germs. His father would bring in motivational quotes each day to put on the wall and keep him fighting the disease. One day his temperature hit 104 degrees and in spite of ice packs and medications, it wouldn’t go down. The doctors fully expected that he would not survive the night. But thanks to many prayers (and a Priesthood Blessing) his fever miraculously left and he defied the medical odds.
Six weeks of being in the hospital and 2 rounds of chemotherapy finally put him in remission. We watched our “wedding date” disappear into medical visits. Brad was allowed to receive treatments at home for the next few weeks. He then returned to the hospital to receive his bone marrow transplant, which we were told he would have to have in order to survive. His three older brothers were tested, and two were found to be a perfect match. So after another round of chemotherapy, and a week of full body radiation, he received the life-sustaining bone marrow from his brother on July 9, 2003, and we saw another miracle as his body accepted it and he began the slow road to recovery.
After three months, the doctors finally gave us the okay to get married, with the stipulation that we couldn’t be around more than 50 people, and we couldn’t be more than 30 minutes away from the hospital. I had always imagined a wonderful celebration with all of our friends and family, and a honeymoon in an exotic location. Instead, we found ourselves having an intimate ceremony and a luncheon with just our immediate families. It turned out to be perfect, and was followed by a wonderful week in Park City. Almost a year later, we were able to have a reception and celebrate our marriage and Brad’s good health with our extended family and friends.
We thought we had had our fair share of challenges, but the week before our wedding, I had gone to the doctor for my pre-marital checkup, and he found a lump on my thyroid. He told us not to worry too much, but 6 months later when it was checked again, we were devastated to learn that I had papillary carcinoma, a form of thyroid cancer. Even the word “cancer” struck fear in our hearts, and I didn’t want to go through what I had seen my husband endure. Luckily, this kind wasn’t too aggressive, and after surgery to remove half my thyroid, the tests showed it had not spread, and I was given a clean bill of health.
Shortly after my surgery we decided we wanted to start trying to have a family. The doctors had warned us that Brad’s cancer treatments could result in sterility, and had encouraged us to do some sperm banking prior to his first chemotherapy treatment. After trying on our own, and then meeting with an infertility specialist and a failed attempt of artificial insemination, we decided we needed to adopt. We signed up with an agency, prepared our profile, and spent months of frustration waiting and hoping and seeing no results. Finally, in an attempt to discover what path we should take, we met with my uncle, a General Authority in the LDS Church. He counseled us to consider going through invitro fertilization to have our own children. For the first time we felt uplifted and encouraged, and after taking a week to decide what path to follow, we both felt strongly that we should attempt invitro.
Again we faced the future with medical help and a lot of questions. But our doctor and his staff were incredible, and we knew we were in great hands. Two and a half months later we were given the wonderful news that we were pregnant with twins! Like everything else we had endured, my pregnancy was not always easy. I was high risk, spent two months on bedrest, and delivered 5 weeks early. But our precious little girls, Brynlee and Brielle, were born on February 20, 2009. They were just under 5 pounds, but again miraculously, they were perfect, and were able to come home with us from the hospital.
It is now 6 years from the day Brad proposed to me and our love story began, and our darling daughters will celebrate their first birthday next week. Brad is 5-1/2 years cancer free, and is considered cured. We have seen miracle after miracle in our lives together during those 6 years, and we treasure every day because we have learned that there are no guarantees in life, and that time spent with family and loved ones bring us true joy in the journey. We have wonderful memories intertwined with the hardships and heartaches, but we know that we are so blessed to be where we are today. We thank the Lord everyday for each other, our good health, our beautiful baby girls, and the many miracles – large and small – that we have experienced in our lives.
We know there are many people who have struggled and endured perhaps even more than we have, but we thank you for letting us share our story of love and triumph, and we hope that you will be able to feel uplifted as you share the joy we feel to be at this point in our lives together.
Sincerely, Jen and Brad
The second place winner will receive a free session fee and 25% off of all products and prints. Congratulations to Kelle Herrera and he family!! I've actually worked with this family before but never knew their story, I can't wait to work with you all again!! This love story came to me from a husband telling about the journey of love with his wife. As I read it, it brought tears to my eyes and gave me those goose bumps I was looking for :) Well, just read for yourself.....
I always felt that love is a word with no real definition. Love is open
to interpretation, and is often confused with other emotions. Does Love at
first sight really exist? Can you really just look at someone and instantly
fall in love? I would say no, but I don’t think it’s impossible. I don’t
really know what love is, because its different things to different people.
I started dating Kelle, the summer following 8th grade. I was 13
years old, and I was in love. Is that even possible? I’m not sure but my
whole body felt like it was plugged into an electrical socket the first time
we kissed. She was so beautiful, and the way she looked at me sent
shock waves down my spine. After a few months went by I began to lose
interest in the world around me; friends and normal teenage things just
didn’t interest me anymore. I started everyday trying to figure out ways to
see her sooner, and I end each day the same way. I only saw her in my world,
nothing else mattered. Could I have found the girl I wanted to grow old with
at the age of 13?
A year and a half later Kelle gave birth to Andre, our beautiful baby
boy. We got married 5 months later, and everyone we knew thought we were
crazy. I don’t think we were given much of a chance, and probably with good
reason. I didn’t have a job or any money. We were kids who didn’t know what
being a parent meant, and we had very little life experience. I could go on
for hours about the things we didn’t have, but we had each other, and that’s
all we would ever need.
We have now been married for 13 years, and despite all the obstacles that
life throws our way, I still feel that electricity when we kiss, and she
still sends shock waves down my spine when she gives me that look. She is
still the only woman I see in the world, and the only woman I ever will. I
may not know how to define Love, but I’ll tell you this much. I know it
when I see her.